Argentina: In a worst-case scenario, the missing submarine ARA San Juan may soon run out of oxygen if it doesn’t get any fresh air supply from the surface. And this can happen as soon as Wednesday. Worried family members, relatives, and friends of the 44 missing submariners were comforted by banners of support from well-wishers who gathered outside a naval base here.
The ARA San Juan submarine has been missing for nearly a week now jolting multinational search operations to full throttle amid worries about the submarine’s depleting oxygen supply. Loved ones of the missing submariners tried to keep their morale high as reports about the oxygen supply depleting started coming in.
Malvina Pacheco, sister of one of the submariners on board said, “It’s really emotional to see these people here, the people are here for us and we appreciate it.” Her brother, who she did not name, has been in the navy for more than two decades now.
On November 15th the Argentine navy lost all contact with the ARA San Juan submarine shortly after the captain of the vessel reported a failure in the sub’s battery system. This happened while the vessel was submerged off Argentina’s South Atlantic Coast, as per military reports.
The last location of ARA San Juan submarine in the San Jorge Gulf off Argentina’s Patagonia region falls nearly midway between bases. When the captain of the sub reported a “short circuit,’ he was asked to “change course and return to Mar del Plata” when it went missing.
Scouring for the submarine in the ocean are aircrafts and ships of at least seven nations. Enrique Balbi, the Argentine navy spokesman said that about three vessels were to move out on Tuesday to an expanded search area. “The search area is two times the size of Buenos Aires,” he added.
Entering a critical phase, the search is now at full throttle as fears of oxygen supply running out are high. Under normal circumstances, the submarine is stocked with enough supply of food, water, fuel, and oxygen to last and operate comfortably for at least a couple of weeks. But here, the depleting oxygen situation could be helped if the vessel drifted atop the waters with its hatch left open. Or, Balbi said the sub could “snorkel” – raise a tube to the surface above water so it can draw in oxygen for the crew.
If the ARA San Juan submarine doesn’t surface soon, the grave situation could get worse since the oxygen is estimated to last for only about seven days. The sub was submerged when it first went missing.